Rotherham’s cemeteries are back open today.
It follows a one-man campaign by John Healey MP, who has fought to re-open Rotherham’s cemeteries after they were closed in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
He has had reports from residents saying they have been upset by the move.
John said: “Ministers have now cleared up the confusion and, as I asked, confirmed that cemeteries should stay open so people can visit the graves of loved ones they’ve lost.
“I’m pleased the Secretary of State has responded and cleared the way for the Council to re-open our Rotherham cemeteries.”
At the government’s Covid-19 briefing on Saturday (18 April), the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick, said he was “asking councils to keep open or indeed reopen cemeteries and graveyards.”
It is exactly what John asked in his letter to Mr Jenrick on 10 April, calling on him to issue clear guidance to councils that they can keep cemeteries open.
He said: “Our cemeteries in Rotherham are shut and our councils – District and Parish – are saying to residents this is because of Coronavirus measures. This did not seem necessary to me for social distancing and adds to people’s grief when they may not be able to attend the funeral of a loved one they lose, so I have looked closely at the Government guidance. Whilst the guidance – backed by new regulations – is clear-cut on funerals, crematoria and graveyards linked to a crematorium the Government have not advised all cemeteries should close.
“It is essential that Ministers make this distinction clear, set this Government advice out in public, and ensure Councils keep open the cemeteries that do not need to close.
“Graveside mourning is a private affair, not a social gathering. It is in the open air and low risk.”
On 8 April, John wrote to the chief executive of Rotherham Council calling on her to look again at the decision to close cemeteries.
He said: “It is traumatic for those who have lost loved ones that attendance at funerals and cremations has been restricted in the national fight against Coronavirus but I think people largely accept this is necessary and in line with public health guidance on social distancing.
“However, stopping the bereaved from visiting the graves of those they’ve loved and lost is different, if this is done in a safe way and in the open air.
“Graveside mourning is a private affair, not a social gathering. It is in the open air and low risk, which is why the new national guidance does not say all cemeteries should be closed; only those burial grounds linked to a crematorium.”
The re-opening applies to council-owned cemeteries at Wath, Haugh Road, Maltby, Moorgate, Greasborough, Greasborough Lane and Masborough.
In line with government advice, East Herringthorpe cemetery and crematorium grounds will remain closed apart from when funerals are taking place.